It is with a heavy heart that I sit at my laptop to announce the death of Mabel Moo, whom I interviewed just last month. Optimistic to the end, she went to the slaughterhouse believing she was testing a new milking facility. It was no doubt better that way. RIP, Mabel, we shall miss you.
Izzy’s May I: The Write this week is about the death of fictional characters. As she gives a good list herself, I shall only add a couple here (apart from poor Mabel). Perhaps the death which caused the greatest trauma was that of Sherlock Holmes, in the 1893 issue of The Strand Magazine. ‘It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen,’ writes Watson at the start of The Final Problem, before going on to reveal that Holmes had fallen to his death at the Reichenbach Falls, pushed by his old enemy Moriarty. Having lost its fictional mainstay, The Strand Magazine promptly lost 20,000 devastated subscribers. Unlike his readers, Conan Doyle was relieved to be rid of his creation: “I have had such an overdose of him that I feel towards him as I do towards pâté de foie gras, of which I once ate too much, so that the name of it gives me a sickly feeling to this day.” Eventually he relented though, revealing ten years later, in one of the most famous examples of retcon (retroactive continuity, or altering an established fact) that Holmes hadn’t died after all.
Very different is Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, which I’ve just finished. If you haven’t read it, do (no excuses, I’m afraid, that’s an order). It’s no spoiler to tell you the heroine Ursula dies. In fact I lost count of the number of times she dies, but she springs back to life again and again. You might think it’s a tiresome device, but in Atkinson’s masterful prose it becomes a delight.
So there you have one of the joys of fiction. Though death in novels can often be harrowing and atrocious, it also sometimes loses its sting. Speaking of which, it appears the stun gun at the slaughterhouse didn’t work – Mabel is back in her field!